‘No-brainer’ housing deal worth £6m agreed with calls for council to go further

Weston's Town Hall.

Weston's Town Hall. - Credit: Archant

Council plans to earn millions of pounds by teaming up with another authority to build dozens of homes have been approved.

North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) councils will work together to build homes across the district – with a Weston site being eyed up for a future project.

The joint venture will see BANES’ own company, Aequus Development, carry out the work while North Somerset will receive around 75 per cent of the profits from sales and land value – estimated to be up to £6million.

Although the proposed scheme currently only includes developments in Nailsea and Portishead, there are 44 homes earmarked for Selworthy Road in Weston – which could be done through North Somerset Council’s own development arm, Wyvern SW, which is in the process of being set up.

However, some councillors believe the project should have been put on hold until Wyvern SW is ready to take it on.

Cllr James Tonkin, who represents Nailsea, raised concerns at Tuesday’s full council meeting at Weston Town Hall.

He said: “I have great reservations in regard to this authority undertaking any form of housing development, especially when another authority is taking the lead role in our business.

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“We are a unitary authority, not a speculative building company.

“Besides which, the company in question run by BANES was only incorporated in March 2016 and its construction side in June last year – it’s only track record to date is the conversion of some of its own flats.”

Cllr Mike Bell agreed with Cllr Tonkin and urged the council to show its ‘ambition’ by investing £100million in residential development.

He added: “We have got a £100million commercial property investment scheme, why can’t we match that with a £100million residential investment scheme?

“If we have got an appetite to be ambitious, we could bring back council-owned homes.”

The venture is being led by Cllr David Pasley, the council’s executive member for finance and property, who says the potential return on vacant land makes the project a ‘no-brainer’.

He said: “Among our list of assets are parcels of land which we do nothing with.

“When auctioned, developers scramble to pick up a bargain and ultimately make a lot of money by developing the sites.

“Why shouldn’t we do that and make all that money for our North Somerset residents?”